Story 74

In continuation of Story 73.
The Story begins here.

“Back to routine, or Not.”

It started to drizzle, and we got up from where we were sitting, near her freshly covered grave. All the people who had gathered for my sister had already left and we were the last alive people around. We started walking and I shivered slightly, it had already started getting cold. On reaching his car he opened the door for me and I slid in. He walked to the driver’s side and the moment he got in, it started to rain heavily. I don’t know whether he knew I needed time or was it because he wanted to be with her for some more time, he did not start the ignition immediately. We sat there inside the car, warm and dry as it rained. She was out there, cold and wet. Tears gathered in my eyes and through my blurred vision I saw him pinch the bridge of his nose. “I wish I could have been there for her more”, he said suddenly, and I knew he meant it.

We both knew it would be crowded at my sister’s place, too crowded to be able to talk. We both did not have much time. I had to fly back to my job and he had to drive back to his wife who was currently busy taking care of the little one my sister had given birth to and died for. She died due to Amniotic Fluid Embolism, the doctors said. Wiki says AFE is a rare and incompletely understood obstetric emergency in which amniotic fluid, foetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the uterus and trigger an allergic reaction. This reaction then results in cardiorespiratory (heart and lung) collapse and coagulopathy. I am grateful to God for giving her at least one chance to hold her baby in her arms before dying. I never had the chance to see the baby, let alone hold her in my arms and I knew I would never see her. It hurt but that’s how it was going to be. The baby was not supposed to be with me. That’s what my sister had agreed to. I do not even want to think about the pain my sister would have had to undergo while handing over the baby to the woman who was married to the man she loved. Would she have been able to stay away from the baby had she been alive? 

I was happy for her; and, in a way this was much easier. Giving away the baby made no sense to me but for her it seemed the right thing to do. I still remember the numerous fights we had since the beginning of the relationship my sister had with the man sitting next to me. It goes without saying that I did not approve of the relationship. How could I? However, she trusted me, needed me, I had to respect that we were family and that is the reason I supported her decision. In the end, however, it was too much of a burden to bear and I had chosen the easiest way out. I stayed away, stopped visiting and did not communicate until the very end. If she had decided to ruin her life, so be it. I was not going to be a part of it anymore. One wrong decision taken leaves you with a lifelong heart ache and guilt. That's what I was left with.

I cursed myself for not being there for my sister when she needed me. Families do not do that, families do not leave you alone. I was ashamed of myself. If I could not be there for my sister, how could I blame this man for not being the part of my sister’s life the way I wanted him to be? All these thoughts assaulted my mind, yet again, as he drove slowly away from the graveyard toward my sister’s house. He was not in a hurry to reach the house, nor was I. We would have preferred being elsewhere, alone with her memories. However, we also knew that it would be inappropriate for me to be missing from the repass being held at her house. I had to be there since I was the only family she had and whether I liked it or not, I was the host. 

We reached the house and I could see a few cars parked outside. I could see people, talking and drinking. I asked him to park the car at the farthest corner, so that we had to walk to the house. I needed a little extra time to compose myself, put on a fake smile and prepare myself to be the host. He did as he was told. Then, he killed the ignition and once again we sat in the car in silence. He looked at me and I looked back at him. I knew he was trying to tell me that it was time to get out of the car. I took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped out of the car. As expected everyone was waiting for me. I walked inside and said something about “hoping that her soul rests in peace and moving on with my life” and took a sip of wine. I walked out a while later and no one noticed. I gulped down the wine from my glass and stood on the porch, the breeze a little too cold to be comfortable. It was better than being inside though. That moment, standing on the porch I made a decision. I was never coming back to this house. 

It was too loaded with memories… and guilt. I would sell this house. That would be the beginning of starting anew without her in my life. I covered my face with my palms and fell on my knees and cried my lungs out. I did not notice silhouette of a man standing on the other end of the porch and it was only after he walked closer did I realise I had a witness to the display of my emotions. He sat next to me giving me silent company. Each time he did something, it became clearer to me as to why my sister had done what she had done. It seemed as if she was still trying to win over my approval. 

One by one all the guests left, but he stayed. We had walked back in and were sitting in the living room without having any conversation. The silence became unbearable and finally I said, “Thank you for coming. I really appreciate it. I will be flying back tomorrow, and I really need to be alone now.” It came out rude even though I did not mean it to be so. He got up and walked to the door without saying a word. Then he turned around and said, “She deserves a little more time than just one day.”

“Yeah, right.” I murmured before turning around and walking up the stairs to her room leaving him alone in the living room. I heard the soft sound of the door being closed. He was gone. Even though I knew their story because my sister wrote letters to me, I really wanted to hear the story from his perspective. However, even though I respected him as family, as someone my sister dearly loved, I could not bear to be alone with him in this house. I looked around her room, it was just the way I remembered. I walked to her desk and picked up the photo frame with the picture of us and held it against my chest, I collapsed on the bed, took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

“That’s how it happened – his story begins”

One of the best things in life is being able to shut yourself off to everything and sleep carefree. I consider myself blessed to be able to do that. The moment I was in bed and closed my eyes, I fell asleep. Had it not been so, I would have never been able to spend the night in this house. The memories would have suffocated me to such an extent that I would have either left the house at night or killed myself out of guilt. When I woke up it was morning. 

I made coffee for myself and decided to relax in the rocking chair on the porch. I had ample of time to get ready and leave the house. Thanks to my internally set alarm clock I always got up on time which made it possible for me to relax before setting my day in motion. I walked out to the porch and inhaled the fresh morning air. I remembered the numerous mornings I had spent with my sister, sharing our lives over a cup of coffee. Our worries, our crushes – everything. She was the only family I had. I sat on the rocking chair and took a sip of the coffee. He was right … my sister deserved more than one day. 

I made up my mind to stay. Maybe not in the house, just roam around a bit, visit places we visited together. Maybe even visit her and spend some time with her. I was about to get up to make the call to cancel my flight ticket when I heard tyres on the gravel road. I squinted in the morning sunlight and saw that it was his car. He was back. What for? I wondered. When he stepped out of the car he was carrying a small bundle in his arms. Something neatly wrapped to protect from the cold. Someone neatly wrapped to protect from the cold. I realised he was holding my niece in his arms.

I got up from the rocking chair and sprinted towards him before he could even take one step towards me. Within no time, I was holding the little bundle in my arms. I looked at her with tears streaming down my cheeks. The blood and flesh of my sister. She was beautiful. I looked at him and whispered a thank you. He smiled. We walked back together to the house. I could not take my eyes off of her. I failed to see a frail figure seated inside his car. Only after the door of the car was closed did I turn around to see where the sound had come from. The frail woman walked slowly towards the house, her eyes fixated on the baby. It did not take much of brainstorming for me to know that the woman was none other than his wife. 

The woman because of whom I fought with my sister, the woman because of whom my sister was no more than a second woman in the life of the man she loved. As much as I hated to see this woman standing in front of me, I also pitied the frail figure looking at the baby. I could make out from her eyes that she had cried the whole night, maybe not slept the whole night either. Had he gone back home and said something to her? Had they fought? Why were they here? Did she come willingly, or did he force her to visit? What did my sister’s relationship with her husband mean to her? These and many more questions tap-danced in my head. I started to feel sick. Perhaps the woman thought that I was going to faint because in one swift motion she was standing next to me, her protective arms ready to hold the baby. I handed over the baby to her reluctantly and without saying a word she walked inside the house leaving me alone with her husband. 

He signalled me towards the chairs on the porch and we sat there silently for some time until he cleared his throat and started talking –
“I am sure you do not need any introduction. The frail woman you just saw is my wife.” He paused. Was I supposed to say something? I did not know. I kept silent but nodded. He took the clue and continued while staring at his hands. “She cannot bear a child, you know.” He looked up at me again and clarified, “I meant it as a statement and not a question. Of course, you do not know but your sister knew about it.”

Of course, I did not know. He knew that my sister had conveniently kept me out of it. I was the only one surprised and hurt. So, my sister did keep secrets from me. Hearing his perspective of the story was going to be worth it, then. All I knew was that my sister loved this man and got pregnant and since she felt the baby deserved more than just being labelled as a Bastard, decided to hand over the baby to the father. However, now it seemed there was more to it. I knew it in my heart; his wife not being able to conceive had something to do with what my sister did. 

“So, just because your wife cannot conceive you decided to impregnate my sister?” I asked in frustration, which was more because of being kept out of the truth than due to the facts I had come to know.
“Please calm down” he pleaded. 

I did not want to heed to his words, but I looked at him as he said this, and my heart ached for this man. I closed my eyes and when I opened them I saw that he was crying. I did not know what to do. I had never seen a man cry. Was I supposed to console him or let him cry? I decided to do the latter. After a few minutes, he stopped crying and wiped his eyes with his hand-kerchief. I was amazed to find out that he still carried a hand-kerchief with him. I was once told it was old-fashioned. "What do men use to wipe their tears with, then?" I had asked the man I was dating at that time. "Crying men are old-fashioned, too." came the quick reply. I was quick enough to finish my drink and bid goodbye to that modern man. I had never seen that man again. I realised that his wife was watching us through the window. The baby was silent, perhaps asleep in her arms. I pictured my sister holding the baby. It should have been her standing there and not this woman. The anger built up again. I looked away. And then, I asked him the question I was dying to ask, “Did you make love to my sister or was it just sex to satisfy your primal desire?”

“Neither” he replied and took me by surprise. 
“I neither made love to your sister nor was it about my primal desire. It was only about bringing a new life in this world.” He bent forward in his chair and looked deep into my eyes, just the way my sister had said he had looked in hers. He willed me to believe him and I did. 

“Please listen to what really happened before you judge me.” He requested, and I agreed.

... concludes as Story 75.

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