Story 73

In continuation of Story 72.
The story begins here.

"The Approval"

The short vacation they took for getting over the past did not help as much as he had hoped it would. In fact, the little things that defined their marriage before; that were an essential part of it somehow took a back seat. That night at the cottage when she had put her arm around him was the last time they had any physical connection. The conversations dried. Both were aware it was too early to consider starting a family again. Both realised the lack physical intimacy and their unwillingness to initiate sex. It seemed as if their relationship needed approval from time.

Each day began and ended in the same way. The loss seemed to take a toll on their relationship and neither of them knew how face it. As a couple, they were meant to deal with the loss together; but on the other hand they both thought it was best to give each another time to heal separately. Neither of them could be supportive of the other when they themselves were not able to deal with the pain. She made breakfast; he ate and went to work. She cleaned the house, did laundry, he attended meetings and had video conferences. She looked at her belly in the mirror after she undressed for taking a shower, remembered the baby and cried. He saw a pregnant colleague and imagined how his wife would have looked during the late stages of pregnancy, but he could not cry. He came back in the evening; his wife welcomed him with a glass of water. They watched television, changed channels whenever an advertisement involving an infant showed up. They had their dinner in silence and then went to bed. First on their backs, then facing each other and finally with their back to each another.

The routine went on for days, weeks and months and finally he decided to seek professional help. She agreed. They met with the counsellor twice a week. Sometimes he took the sessions alone, sometimes the counsellor asked his wife to visit alone and the other days they attended as a couple. Couple who still mourned the death of their unborn child. Talking helped, crying helped. They stopped avoiding advertisements involving infants. They learned to accept what had happened. That was the first stage. To accept. That was the difficult part. They started talking to each other. The little conversations. What he did in the office. What she did at home. How she went to the market and walked for hours without buying anything. How he sat in a meeting without really listening to the discussion. They started going for a walk again, after a few walks together they held hands. They looked around still avoiding to look in the direction of the children’s play area. They saw a couple walking hand in hand and laughing. They saw a couple, to-be-parents walking together, the woman with one hand on the bump and the other hand holding her husband’s hand. Then, one day they dared to look at the play area. They watched as children played and their parents kept a watch. The next day they went ahead and talked to one of the mothers who cared enough to introduce them to her son. 

Spending time in the play area brought back happiness in their life. They knew they could not change the past and they realised they were blocking happiness from their future. It was time they had to move on. One night they decided to give each other a chance. After finishing the dishes, he walked closer to her, wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her on the neck. She closed her eyes. His lips traced her jaw line and finally met her lips. She did not stop him but she did not kiss back either, did not open her mouth to give him access. He stopped kissing. He moved his hand from her waist to her back and then brought it up to her neck. He massaged it just the way she liked it. Tears rolled down her cheeks and he licked them dry. The floodgates opened, she started to tremble and collapsed in his arms. He held her tight against his chest and let her cry. His own tears flowing and forming tracks on his cheeks. They cried together as a couple. They stood there in the kitchen, in each another’s embrace for a long time. Then, they sat down resting their back against the counter. She rested her head on his shoulder and they held hands, their grip offering support and strength to each other. It was the beginning. Time had finally given them the approval.

“My sister’s love story and his confession”

We met officially at my sister’s funeral. Sitting next to him and listening to his confession, I finally understood why my sister loved him so much. Loved him enough to be the “other woman” in his life. I had met this man before; however, he did not know that. Our paths had crossed at yet another funeral, that of our cousin brother. We were the only family our cousin had and even though we could not visit him often, we dearly loved him. I saw this man and I knew instantly that he would play a special role in my life. I cannot say that I fell in love with him then, but I did feel a weird pull towards him. It was later that I realised he was the same man my sister had fallen in love with. I know it is stupid of me to make the same mistake my sister made but I am truly and madly in love with this man, the man whom my sister loved with all her heart and the man who is the father of my niece. The man who is married to someone else.

It was raining heavily that night, I was told. That’s when they met first. I had heard this story for the first time from my sister as I slept next to her in her bed. I had never seen her so happy before. She had fallen in love with the guy who looked deep into her eyes and reached her soul. His eyes scanned her body once but later his gaze was fixed on her eyes and then he looked nowhere else. The wet and revealing white shirt and the wet skirt that hugged her body made no difference whatsoever to this man. Their eyes met once and that was enough, she had told me; enough for her heart to skip a beat, enough for her to know that she could never love any other man. She was scared, not of him but of herself. She told me she wondered that moment as to how do you stand before a person you love and be in control of your emotions because to tell him the truth about your feelings would sound absurd? How do you tell a stranger that you have fallen in love with him, so much in love that you are ready to close your eyes and walk with him wherever he wants to take you?

Had I not seen the blush on her face, noticed the tears in her eyes and felt her heart beat with my own palm I would have never believed that my sister could ever love someone so intensely. I was supposed to be the emotional one in the family and here she was, the most practical person many of her friends turned to for sensible advice, talking about love at first sight. I found it difficult to believe that a person like her could fall in love like this, could choose the life she had chosen for herself.

On the day of the funeral of my cousin when she showed me the man she had fallen in love with, I finally believed. I could feel and understand the chemistry between them. For a moment when their eyes met, I felt as if it was not just the eyes but their bodies that had come together in union. For a moment they were alone, amidst so many people; as if enveloped in a personal bubble. I could see the colour rising in her cheeks and had it not been the time to bid final farewell to our cousin, she would have not been able to stop herself from staring at him. I noticed his disappointment as she broke the eye contact and walked towards the casket. I stared at him for a long time, long enough to notice a woman standing close to him, too close. She tugged at his arm and he moved with her towards the casket. Their synchronised movement indicated that they had been doing this for quite a while; the synchronisation that came from knowing someone well and being with the person for a long time. It was through my cousin’s friend that I came to know about the relationship he had with the woman. They were happily married, I was told. How was I supposed to tell my sister that the man she loved so much was already married?

I could see him scanning the crowd and knew instantly that he was searching for my sister and all that I could do to save her from getting hurt was to hold her arm and pull her towards the parking lot. I hoped that would be the last time she would meet that man. There was nothing I could possibly do to make her fall out of love, but I could at least genuinely hope that their paths never crossed again. I was surprised to find out that even she had noticed what I had, and she knew he was married. That day, I did not cry as much for the loss of my cousin as I cried for my sister. It seemed our roles were reversed. She was being the emotional sibling and I had to be the tough and practical one trying to console her while my own emotions were out of control. We hugged each other and cried. I cursed the man for having such an influence over her. Why had he locked gaze with my sister when he had another woman to look at, to be with, and to love?

I got my answer when we met - the man and I, we sat together and talked about her on her funeral. Covering my sister’s casket with soil and standing next to me as a family member, he proved how much he loved her. How could one man possibly love two women at the same time, I thought. And the answer he gave me convinced me that it could happen. His love for my sister was as selfless as was his love for his wife. It broke his heart as much as it did mine to know that my sister died being the “other woman” in his life. He hated himself for not being able to give her the rights she deserved. 

He told me about the night they first met, and I listened to the story for the second time. “Going back in time and thinking about the first meeting," he said and then stopped to press the bridge of his nose. "I believe it was not love at first sight for me, though at that time it seemed to be so. I loved my wife and I do even now, please understand. But that night, something happened between us, something I can never explain. I felt unexplained attraction towards her, as if something was bound to happen between us in future. I believed we had a story together, I simply did not know at that time what the story would be. The chemistry between us at the funeral of your cousin was unexplainable too. It was later, after she told me how much she loved me, did I realise that it was the power of her immense love for me that attracted me to her and enveloped me completely. The night she told me how much she loved me was the night I really fell in love with her.”

... continued as Story 74.

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