Story 41

Little things in life had never meant anything to him until she had entered his life as a soft breeze bringing in fresh fragrance of liveliness into his boring monotonous life. Being a successful businessman at a very young age obviously placed him in the market as the most eligible bachelor. He was often seen at parties with one woman on his arm; almost everyone, including his parents assumed that she would be the lucky winner. But it never happened. He would have perhaps given in to the expectations of the society but it was the girl who was not interested. Her parents could not believe, nor could he when she said that she was in love with someone; someone of lower social status than hers. He was disappointed, maybe, but not heart-broken. Because he had securely locked away his heart at some place inside of him; where no one could find it – leave alone break it. 

But then it happened –

Someone found a way to his heart and touched it so gently that he was ready to rip it out of his chest for the sake of the woman who did it. She was a mother of two children, few years elder to him but that did not stop him from feeling the way he did. He was out on a business tour, working day and night to finalize a deal that would make a huge difference to his company. That’s when he had seen her; in one of the local cafeterias; working hard to make ends meet. She’d been assigned to his table and when she brought his coffee, she had offered something more valuable – something that could not be bought by money. She gave him the broadest smile he had ever seen. What’s so special in that, people might ask! She was a waitress, smiling at customers was perhaps how she was trained to behave because in the end the sunshine attitude is what earned them handsome tips.

It was not the smile as much as it was the circumstances in which she smiled that made him adore her. Moments before she arrived at his table with his coffee; on his way to the restroom, he had seen her cry her lungs out. She was of course going through some sort of personal hell. The strength it took to make the smile reach out through the thick fog of sadness was commendable. The way her eyes shone through the lingering tears added value to the smile that spread across her face. He could taste the happiness in the coffee. He had never been so happy in his entire life.

The tip he had given her would have made anyone happy; but she had returned the excess amount taking only the deserved percentage of the total bill. That was the first time he had learned that not everything could be valued in terms of money. He’d never felt this way before. He’d never found himself waiting outside the cafeteria, watching her as she served other customers. He had never ever in his entire life cancelled a meeting to be someplace else. When business knocked on the door, he always opened it. This time, however, he put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign at the door and locked it to spend his time living his own life the way he wanted to.

At the end of the shift when she walked out of the cafeteria and towards her car, he felt his heart beating against his chest. She was beautiful, no doubt about that but what mesmerized him was the confidence that shone through her. It did not bother him that she was not alone when she walked out. It made no difference to him that she was holding a toddler in her arms. Who brings their kids to their jobs? Two kinds of people –

  1. People who want their off-springs to step into their shoes and take over their business when they are old enough. His father belonged to this category. His father brought him to the office for the first time when he was eight. It could have been earlier had his mother not refused to let him out of his sight. He learned the tricks of business at the onset of puberty. That totally changed the meaning of the term ‘puberty’ for him.
  2. People who were forced to bring their child to work place because there was no other place they could keep the child. She seemed to belong to this category. She was a hard-working mother, there was no place safe for her toddler than to be with her.

As she secured the toddler in the child seat and got in to the driver’s seat he started the ignition. He’d long ago asked his chauffeur to leave him and the car alone and take a ride back to the office. He wheeled out of the parking lot, maintaining a safe distance. He did not want her to think that he was stalking her, even though that was exactly what he was doing.

Luck had always been in his favour, but he had not really paid any special attention to the fact or thanked God or the Universe for making it a lot easier for him than it was for others. But, that day as he had followed her car and luck had favoured him yet again; for the first time in his life he had thanked the Universe for doing this for him. 

As he had stepped out of his car to walk towards her broken-down car, he had smiled. Yet another first time for him. He had found her torn between looking at the hissing engine of her car and trying to calm her crying toddler.  He had offered to help even though he did not know what he was doing. After a few minutes of failed attempts he offered to give her a ride. 

She accepted it because she said she needed to be somewhere urgently and had asked him if he would be kind enough to drive her to a local school and then drive her home. He had done as she had asked and when they had reached the school she had stepped out hurriedly and returned with a young boy in school uniform. One of her two off-springs; he realized. He’d then dropped her home and politely refused her invitation to have a cup of coffee at her house. He had seen her with two of her kids and he was okay with it but he was not ready for what he might see after stepping inside the house. He was not okay with the presence of another man in the house or her life.

She had recognised him as the man who had paid her hefty tip. He did not want to be remembered that way. He offered to look into her broken car and get it delivered the next day; secretly hoping that she would not stop him saying that her husband would take care of it. She did not. On his way back to the car he had smiled yet again.

He had given the task of getting the car repaired to his chauffeur but he took it on himself to drive it back to her safely. He drove to the cafeteria and handed her the keys. She had thanked him profusely and offered a cup of coffee and a sandwich – on the house she had said, but he knew it was from her pocket. He’d taken up the offer because he wanted to spend more time in the cafeteria.
He extended his work trip into a personal vacation only so that he could get to know her. It had taken some digging around to find out that she was a single mother. Her husband and father of her kids had left her alone without saying goodbye; and the day he had seen her crying was the day she had heard news that he was getting married to a much younger woman.

He had become a regular at the cafeteria and in her life. He always knew what to say and when to say it. Even though he was not much of a people’s person, those who were blessed to be a part of his life always said that he knew how to find a way into people’s life; they praised him saying that he knew how to care – it was in his nature.

He cared, like he knew how to. It had taken a while for her to let down her guards but eventually she had. He cared not only for her but for her kids as well. In fact, he paid more attention to the kids, spent more time with them – playing with them, tucking them in bed; than the time he gave to her, talking with her, being there for her. It was not done on purpose; it was natural and she knew it. She had been a single mother for a while and knew when people tried to be good to the kids only to woo her and get her in their beds. She knew he was different. That had made her let down her guards.

One of the few Sundays he spent with her in her house; she had finally taken the initiative and kissed him when he had returned to the living room after putting her kids to sleep. He had been surprised – and it had taken him a while to respond. Enough time for her to think that she had ruined the beautiful thing they shared together. She had opened her mouth to apologize only to find it being covered with his. 

He had taken his time to take things to the next level. His parents and business associates had gotten worried when he had not returned home for months. His parents had tried to figure out what he was up to but he had asked them for some space. Spending time with this woman, doing little things, cooking together, taking long walks, holding hands, kissing under the moon as the moonlight shone on her fair skin, swimming with her in the lake, making love to her – these were his priorities. 

One night, after love-making he had told her that he wanted to talk to her about something important and she had assumed that he wanted to say he was leaving because even though they were together now, doing things as a couple – it was too good to be true. She knew that he did not belong to this place and would leave one day; she knew about him, his life out of this little place where she lived. This world was hers. His world was different and a lot bigger. The nagging thought had always been there, someday the dream would be over and she would wake up alone. Hence she had been surprised when he had proposed marriage. 

People talked behind their backs. His parents talked about it with her. They told her how she had trespassed into their lives and that she did not belong to their world. She did not care what people said as long as she was happily married to the man she really loved. He’d told her on the first night of their marriage that people would talk, his parents might tell her how disappointed they were in her, they might even try to change her but she should not be bothered by anything. She had taken his advice, stayed immune to the negativity around her. Over a period of time, his parents realized that she had brought out the best in him and they had finally accepted her and her children as the part of the family.

If she had brought out the best in him then; now she was bringing out the worst. 

Now, as he slid in bed next to her and looked at her fragile body; he could not stop himself from crying. The woman who had found a way to his heart and gently touched it was now breaking it, even though against her will. He loved his wife, he wanted to make love to his wife but he was too scared even to touch her. Their children were sleeping in adjacent room; hugging each other and preparing themselves for the inevitable. He thought perhaps they were being more mature than him. Their eldest son who knew exactly what was happening and who had spent time taking care of his parents was being brave for all of them. While his son had taken the responsibility of looking after them, he had given up on life altogether. He could not concentrate in work. He often lost temper easily and yelled at his employees. Everyone at home, including his parents were scared of what he had become.

Only one person could control him. The woman who was lying next to him in bed; the woman who was diagnosed with cancer; the woman who would, at any moment, leave him alone to face the dreadful world. 

He did not know she had opened her eyes and was watching him cry. She moved her fragile hand and wiped his tears and held out her fragile arm, willing him to hold her. He held her as lightly as he could, fearing that a tight hug might squeeze life out of her faster than it was meant to be. He tasted his tears through her lips as she kissed him, putting her entire strength behind the kiss. 

“I am glad we met.” She said and he cried more. “Be the man I had met and fallen in love with; be the man with whom I have spent my happy life with.” She said. He knew she meant “after I am gone.” Not saying it did not change the truth. He nodded and kissed her. They kissed, lying next to each another in bed. Her fragile body covered with his healthy body. They kissed until he was the only one kissing.

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