Story 56

They had just finished dinner and were seated on the couch in front of the TV. He sat with his feet up on the centre-table and she lied down, her head on his lap. He was not really watching anything specific, just surfing through channels as he ran his fingers through her hair. She hated that she had to initiate the topic this moment but it could not wait. She told him what she had learned during the day and told him that he had to do what she wanted him to do.

‘Is this really necessary?’ he asked
“Yes” she replied.
He stopped running his fingers through her hair and switched off the TV. She raised her head from his lap and sat upright facing him. The expression on his face changed. She hated this look on his face. It hurt her to see him like this. She placed her hand on his cheek and kissed him on the lips. He kissed her back after some time. 
“I know this is a painful topic and I am sorry but this is something you need to do.” She made him understand. 
“Okay” he said, finally. She smiled.
“Not so fast” he said and continued, “On one condition.”
She waited.
“You have to come with me.” He said.
“Okay” she replied. 

“I am tired; let’s go to bed” he said getting up. Before she could say anything further he had already started walking towards the bedroom. By the time she switched off the TV from the mains, he was already in bed - her side of bed, facing away.
She slid into his side of the bed, facing his back. She stared at his back for a while before moving closer and putting her arm around him. He turned immediately, embraced her and cried hiding his face in her bosom. She ran her fingers through his hair. 
She had knowingly scratched open a wound from his past; from their past. She had no option. She let him cry as she held him tight against her body. He fell asleep after a while, his face still hidden in her bosom. She was awake for a long time after; her arms still wrapped around him. She loved him a lot and she cared for him. Sometimes, her caring seemed more like a mother’s concern. She could not help it. She had known him since he was a boy; since the time he had just started to shave.
She fell asleep.


He hated that she was making him do this but he loved her and it was the only reason he was doing this. She had promised that she would come with him and she had kept her promise. She was here with him, standing behind him holding his hand. Was it to support him or was she supporting herself, he could not tell. He took a deep breath and placed his hand in the door handle. Through the glass in the door he could see his father, fragile and helpless, lying on hospital bed surrounded by machines that kept him alive. Numerous tubes ran into his body.

Sitting on a stool next to the bed was his mother. He could not see his brother but he knew his brother was there somewhere in the room, as well. It was time, the doctor had told them. ‘It would be any moment now; the family should say their goodbyes.” The doctor had instructed them.
‘Family’. She was family too. It was the right thing, according to him, to let her say goodbye as well. 
He opened the door and walked inside. There was sudden movement in the room. His mother stood up from the stool, his brother walked towards the door from the farthest corner of the room where he was standing. They both saw her and froze to the ground. The only sound in the room was that of the machines. 

His father turned his head slowly to look at him. He looked past him towards her and his father’s face changed. Despite being kept alive on life support, despite being on death-bed; the adamant man turned his head away after seeing her; in an attempt to register his disapproval to her presence in the room. 

She tried to pull out her hand from his grip but he tightened it. 
“Please” she whispered.
“Stay” he said in a firm voice. 
“My wife and I have come to say our goodbyes” he said walking towards the bed and pulling her along with him. He did not wait for his father to look towards them instead he walked to the other side of the bed so that he could see them. His father looked away again. That’s when he let go of her hand. That’s when he stormed out of the room. 


She should have not gone inside with him. She knew his father hated her and even though his mother and his brother did not hate her she knew even they did not approve of the relationship. She stood at the same spot where he had let go of her hand. She could not move. His mother looked at her and from the corner of her eyes she could see his brother disappearing into the corner once again. His father was still looking away. 
“I am sorry” she whispered and ran out of the door.
She did not know she had said sorry for what. Sorry for being there in the room at that moment or sorry for taking away their son from them.
The call in the afternoon was a surprise. His mother had called to inform about the serious condition of his father. Neither his mother nor his brother had informed earlier about his father’s hospitalization; perhaps they were instructed not to inform.

He had not wanted to come but she had forced him. Now, she was responsible for his bad mood. She had subjected him to the kind of pain he had felt first when his family had abandoned him because he was in love with her. His father had thrown him out of the house and he had not heard from them since then.

She could not blame his father for such reaction, but at the same time she did not like what his father had done to him. It had taken a lot of time for him to heal. She had wronged him by causing him pain like this. He had to see his father, there were no second thoughts about that. She should have given the family the chance to grieve together. She should have not gone inside with him.


She was 22 when she had seen him first. She worked in the supermarket. He was there to buy a shaving kit with the money his father had given him. He was 13. She had seen him struggling to decide which one to buy and had helped him with it. She picked one for him and told him that’s the one her boyfriend used. He had taken the kit from her hand and almost ran away from there. It had made her laugh out loud. 
She had seen him then, a few more times, with his mother. His eyes looking at her and avoiding gaze at the same time. He noticed how uncomfortable he became when his mother tried to put her hand over his shoulder. 

She was 23 when she got married to her boyfriend.
She was 24 when the first sign of marital abuse showed on her face.
She was 25 when she got pregnant and eventually lost her child. Few months later she heard that someone had beaten up her husband and was locked in juvenile. She visited the person; she was surprised to see him. He was 16 when he had beaten her 28-year-old husband. She bailed him out and drove him to his house. He kissed her on the cheek before getting out of her car. 
She knew she should have stopped at that moment. She should have walked away from him. She could not.

On her 26th birthday she finally got a divorce. She continued working in the supermarket. He continued visiting. He always bought the shaving kit she had recommended. 
She should have not accepted his offer when he said that his friends and he were going hiking and asked her whether she would like to join. It was there that they became friends. Real friends. Friends who talked about their lives, their ambitions, their fears, their struggles and their dreams. That’s where the age difference between them took a backseat. 

It was a casual thing when he held her hand for the first time. She should have known it meant something more to him. Maybe she knew but she was not ready to accept that someone younger than her would look at her in that specific way.

The first awkward moment was when he tried to kiss her while watching a movie at her house. She had blamed it on the alcohol, then. She had told him that they should stop meeting the way they did - so often and so late into the nights. She could feel the hostility radiating out from his mother whenever their paths crossed at the supermarket. She thought his mother was reading too much into it.
A few days later she learned that he was being sent away for further studies. The same night he threw stones at her window to wake her up. She opened the door for him and asked him to come inside. She should have not.

He told her that he loved her. She pretended to be shocked but she was not really shocked. He moved closer and kissed her on the mouth. She responded. She should have not.

He was smiling as he left her house that night. The next day he left the town. He had promised that he would come back. He did. 
He was 22 when he returned. She hated to admit it but she had missed him. When she saw him outside her house she rushed into his arms. She should have not.
He took her in his arms and lifted her from the ground. She could feel the strength in his arms. She looked at his face, a matured version of 13-year-old boy stared back at her. She kissed him. She should have not.

He told her that he was back for her. He told her that he still loved her. He told her that he was going to talk to his parents about her. He wrapped his arms tightly around her again and pressed against his chest she could feel his heart beating over hers. She could feel her skin burning at places where their skins touched. 
She pushed herself out of the embrace and took a step back. He looked hurt. She felt bad. She held his hand and invited him inside her house. She should have not.

That day she did not go to work. At 31, she felt her body reacting like an 18-year-old. She felt butterflies in her stomach as he unbuttoned her shirt as he stared in her eyes seeking permission and it seemed as if her heart was about to leap out of her chest. She liked the way her body reacted as his fingers touched her bare skin as he took off her shirt. She had closed his eyes as he had kissed her neck and wrapped his arms around her waist. With her back against his front she had realized how much he needed her and then she realized she needed him the same way. She had started walking towards the bed with his arms still wrapped around her and he had followed her. She had allowed him to undress her and make love to her. She should have not. 

He then asked her whether she would marry him and she had said yes.


She still remembered how shocked she had been when his mother had come to the supermarket and slapped her in front of customers and her co-workers. Everyone had stopped doing whatever they were doing and had looked in their direction.
‘Leave my son alone’ his mother had told her. It was too late. She knew it was not possible for her to stay away from him and he would be devastated if she tried to maintain distance or even suggested something on those lines. 

He came to her house that night. His face was swollen and he had a black eye. His father had beaten him up. That night he had cried for the first time in front of her. He had cried in her arms, his head resting on her breast. Earlier, he had emptied all his frustration into her and in return she had offered everything she could. She kissed him and made love to him like a woman who loved him immensely; she listened to him like a friend, she nursed his wounds like a mother. She had seen the belt marks on his back only when he had undressed. When she was sure he was asleep, she had slid out of bed, gotten dressed and walked out of the house. 

She had walked to his parents’ house and had thrown a stone at the house, shattering a window. She returned home and slid into the bed even before he could realize she was gone. Till date he was unaware of what she had done. She never told him. It was her secret; it was her hatred for the man who had beaten up the man she loved. 


He was sitting on the couch when she returned home. He did not look up at her. She walked closer and sat next to him and placed her hand over his. She saw a tear fall from his eye and it landed on her hand. She took him in her arms and whispered sorry. He held her tight against his body but said nothing. She ran her fingers through his hair and that’s when the tears came. A flood – emptying out the rage and the helplessness. He was crying not only for the way his father had treated them, treated her today; he was crying also for his father, for his mother and brother, he was crying because his father was about to die and because he had to walk out on his father and because he had failed to win his father’s trust and love. She let him cry until she felt the back of her shirt get wet with his tears. Then, she loosened her grip and he let her go. She waited for a moment; considered the possibility that he might be angry on her for being the invisible wall between him and his parents. She waited for the frustrated words to come and when they did not she held his hand and led him to the bedroom.

She undressed and helped him to undress. They did not make love, they lay in bed, in each other’s arms, looking at each other. She stared at his tired face and thought of all the times in the past when she had the chance to not do the things that eventually led them to this moment, with each other. He noticed the blank look on her face and placed his hand on her cheek and then he kissed her on the lips.
After he fell asleep in her arms, her thoughts went back to those times when her decision had the power to change her future, their future. Thinking back now, she knew, if she had those choices again, she would still have made the choices she made. 

She was glad she had accepted his offer to go hiking. She was glad she had invited him inside the house when he had thrown stones at her window and she was glad she had kissed him back. She was glad she ran into his arms when he had returned and that she had kissed him. She was glad she had let him make love to her for the first time and every time after that. She was glad she had married him despite the age difference. 

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