Story 75

In continuation of Story 74.
The story begins here.

“What this was all about … his story continues”

He knew that to explain to the sister what his relationship with the mother of his only alive child meant to him he would have to re-live the pain and the shame he had undergone during those months as he spent time shuffling between his wife and her, being here now and there the next moment. He was ready for the pain, which he knew would come and shatter him once again. It was better as compared to the alternative. The sister assuming that the relationship was about sex. He was sure she would not only believe him but really understand why he did what he had done. His wife already believed – why would she not? She was a part of the decision he had taken. They were sitting on the porch while his wife watched them, holding the baby in her frail arms. The woman sitting next to him deserved to know the truth but he found it difficult to speak. Last night, after leaving this house he had driven around the block instead of going back home to his wife and then parked in a secluded lane and cried his lungs out. Despite letting out all those emotions then, right now he felt too choked to speak. He loved this woman's sister, but the intensity of it surprised him too.

There was pain etched on his face as he was lost deep in thoughts. There was something else - shame and guilt. Good, I thought. Despite being angry earlier I pitied this man now. I knew he was searching for the right way to start telling me how it had happened. I helped him–
“I know about the day you saw my sister at the funeral of our cousin. When did you two really meet?”
It seemed as if he needed one little push and the words came out. Slow first, then fast and then slow again as he tried to regain composure. Obviously, he was aware that I knew about the first actual meeting but nevertheless he decided to tell me about it. Rather, he wanted to tell me about it as much as I wanted to hear it from him.

The narration began - 
“I would be lying if I say that your sister was constantly on my mind since I saw her at the funeral. Even though the weird attraction, the chemistry stayed with me for a while, eventually I got busy with my own life and the problems that were part and parcel of it. Somewhere deep in my heart I knew that we had a story together. I let that feeling take a back seat in my mind. When I told you earlier that my wife cannot bear a child; I did not mean that she cannot conceive. She can but her womb is simply not strong enough to hold the fertilised egg. It took a while and a lot of pain for us to finally understand that. We were lucky compared to the couple who desperately tried to start a family but could not; however, unlucky compared to the couples who held healthy baby in their arms. The news of first pregnancy came right at the time when things were starting to get monotonous and suffocating in our relationship.
I know you might wonder why I am telling you all this, you might even want me to stop but I need you to understand – this is as much important as telling you about my relationship with your sister.”

I nodded. He continued –
“We were very happy. I made her feel loved and cared for. I cooked food for her on Sundays. We went for walks every evening, holding each other’s hand. I took leave from office to be with her when she visited her doctor. The obstetrician told us that everything was fine. The obstetrician was wrong.
A few weeks into the pregnancy, my wife had a miscarriage. She cried her lungs out and for the first time in my life, I cried too. 

I took her for a short vacation. I walked alone at night on the unfamiliar roads, taking turns not knowing where it would lead me. She had lost a child; I had lost a child too. We needed each other but she did not understand that, she was too busy mourning her loss to notice mine. She spent time looking out of the window, sometimes helping me with the chores. One cold night, as I moved closer to her to warm her as she shivered, she pushed me away.” He stopped, and I realised he was on the verge of crying. I turned to look at the window; his wife was now looking at him with pain evident in her eyes. I followed her gaze to the man, he was crying. He did not wipe his tears this time but continued –

“We decided to seek professional help to come out of the grief. The counselling sessions helped. We knew we could not change the past and we realised we were blocking happiness from our future. It was time we had to move on and we did. We were back to the routine. The news of second pregnancy came as a pleasant surprise. We both were very happy. At times, though, I could see a hint of worry on her face, but she never told me about it. We consulted the obstetrician; once again she said everything was fine. We questioned her about the earlier miscarriage; she said it won’t happen again. Once again, she was wrong. A few weeks into the pregnancy, my wife had a second miscarriage. We both were devastated. We started avoiding having a conversation. Days went by without a single word being uttered. It started affecting our health. Finally, one day I decided to talk to her; only the outcome was not what I had expected. She told me she did not want to have a family. It hurt me to hear her say that, especially because she knew how much I loved children. That was the night I first saw your sister when I stepped out of the house in frustration and took shelter under a tree.”

He looked up to see my reaction. But, it was too early for me to display any emotions because I did not know how I should react. I turned to look at his wife, she was crying. The window even though closed was transparent and was not exactly sound proof. I knew hearing this was painful for her, as much as undergoing the miscarriages was. Memories do that to you. I was beginning to have a dull headache. My niece and I were the only ones who were not crying. She was sleeping and I was feeling dead inside. 

“When and how did my sister come into picture in all this?” I asked starting to get uneasy. The sun had moved further up in the sky and it was not pleasantly warm anymore. I suggested walking inside the house. He agreed. We got up together and his wife moved back from the window. 

The moment we stepped in, he looked at his wife and she looked back at him. They continued looking at each other momentarily oblivious to my presence. Neither of them looked away. It was their way of showing support for each other. I could not believe what I was seeing especially after hearing about their fight and lack of conversation after the second miscarriage. It proved how much they loved each other, how could he get involved with my sister then? Every time I started to get angry on this man, things happened which made me pity him and the moment I started pitying him, something made me get angry again. I was fed up of these emotional somersaults. I wanted it to end soon. I cleared my throat and he looked at me. He took the hint and walked to the couch. I sat on the chair. His wife continued standing near the window.

“Forget about how you first met my sister, we both know I am aware of that. Keep aside the family drama and tell me what I need to know.” I said annoyingly and regretted the words the moment I said them. He did not react, but his wife did, she stepped forward perhaps to say something. I gave her the ‘don’t-you-dare’ look. 
“Stay out of this” he said to his wife; the words hurt her, but she obeyed. She was about to walk away from the living room when he stopped her, “Wait here. I want you to listen to what I am going to tell her sister. I want you to hear again how much l really loved her sister.”

The words took me by surprise. I looked at his wife; she was looking down at the baby. 
“Yes, I loved your sister – there is no doubt about that and it is not only because she is the mother of my child, I love her for the person she was, for the brave decision she took, for all the pain and loneliness she accepted in her life by being a part of mine.” He stopped allowing the words to sink in. These words brought tears to my eyes and I let them flow. I tasted the salt of my tears through the smiling lips. I was happy for my sister. 

Knowing what happened between them was important but more important than that was knowing that my sister meant something to him. His presence at her funeral, his tears – everything hinted at that, but I wanted this – I wanted him to say it in words. Most importantly, I wanted him to say it in front of his wife. 

My sister’s pregnancy and his role in it 
– The story ends

“At the funeral, as I was staring at your sister I failed to notice my wife following my gaze. It did not take her much time to grasp the intensity of the emotions of your sister, being a woman, it came naturally to her. My wife enquired with the friends and found details about her. And, arranged for us to meet. As you already know …” I stopped him mid-sentence and asked, “It was arranged? I mean, of course, I know the picnic was arranged so that we could move on with our lives after our cousin was no more a part of it. But, it was arranged by your wife? The meeting and the conversation you both had? Everything was pre-planned?”
“Not everything was. In fact, until the time my wife confessed that she had set us up; I did not know anything about it. The picnic, according to me was planned by a close friend of your cousin; we were supposed to join them.” He looked at his wife who was staring at the floor. 

I remembered the picnic. And I remembered not being able to go. I was down with fever and resting at home. My sister did not want to go either. It was me who had forced her to go. I wondered what would have happened had I allowed her to stay back with me. Would they have met some time later? Or would my sister have forgotten all about him, fallen in love again, gotten married to someone else and most importantly, would she have been alive? Maybe she would have been or maybe they would have somehow met eventually. Don’t they say – what is meant to happen, does happen no matter what. I closed my eyes. He continued –

“I felt a sudden wave of warmth rush through me as I saw your sister at the picnic. Of course, I knew she would be there but still, seeing her there warmed my heart. Her warmth radiated towards me, reached me and enveloped me. We were formally introduced by your cousin’s friend. Conversing with her came easily. My wife left us alone. It did not strike to be on purpose then. She seemed occupied talking to other people. We talked, we laughed, and we became friends. We met again, this time at our house. My wife had invited her home for dinner. I walked her back to this house. We talked as we walked. I shared things with her I had never shared with anyone. It was so easy to talk to your sister.

When I returned home, my wife told me that she wanted to have a family. I did not know what had made her change her mind, but I was obviously happy about her decision. I told her we would consult another obstetrician this time, a better one, the best one in the field. She agreed. I fixed an appointment with one of the best obstetricians I could find so that we could talk to the doctor about what had to be done, what precautions had to be taken. If I had to take leave for all the nine months of my wife’s pregnancy, I was prepared for it. I was ready to stay back home and take care of her, feed her, bathe her, I was ready to do anything and everything for her and I told her so. And, she asked me for a favour. I was shocked when I heard what she asked me to do. She asked me to convince your sister …”

“Stop” I yelled, suddenly realising what he was about to say. “You both manipulated my sister” I said looking at both of them. 
“No, we did not.” He replied in exasperation. “We did not manipulate your sister. We simply told her about the idea, the decision was hers to make. It was she who decided to be a part of this and not only that – make changes to the plan.” He glanced at his wife and continued talking to me, “Even though the idea originated from my wife’s mind, there was a little detail even she was not aware of, until yesterday. It was the request made by your sister, the woman I ended up loving and caring for as much as I love and care for my wife. Saying this does not make me feel guilty or regret what happened even though to others it might seem disgusting and an act of infidelity.”

He walked towards me and took my hand in his, kneeling down and coming face to face with me as I sat on the chair, he said – “I shared a pure relationship with your sister. It was never about the sex. We never had sex. We were best of friends, she loved me beyond my understanding and I started loving her beyond mine, but we never even kissed. Yes, I agree, there were times when I wanted to kiss her, wanted to hold her in my arms. There were times, like the one night when I was alone with her in this house and she was already pregnant with my child. My wife did not know I was with her. She made dinner for me and as we did dishes together, I looked at her and I wanted to take her then and there, I knew she wanted to be taken, too. I could see the heat rising into her cheeks and read her body language. She read mine. She knew what the close proximity with her was doing to me.  She hurriedly turned around and walked to the porch. We both knew we could not be together forever; we respected each another’s decision. She knew I was doing my best to be with her even though my wife was against it. She tried a couple of times to stop me from visiting her. Then, she gave up finally realising I was not going to stop. We both grew comfortable with each other. The first time I held her hand was when she was about to trip on the porch. It was also the time when I carried her over the threshold. After that we began to hold hands as we sat on the porch or had meals together. We would spend hours sitting on the couch. We held hands, we talked. We shared our lives as much as we could”

I looked at him, the reality finally dawning on me. I had begun to admire this man now. He smiled, “Your sister agreed to be the surrogate mother to our child. This is how she became a part of all this. My wife told me how she intended to get pregnant and then with the permission of your sister, implant the fertilised egg into the much stronger womb. Despite my repeated refusals, she did not give up. She secretly met your sister and talked woman-to-woman, telling her about how she wanted to become a mother and most importantly how desperately I wanted to be a father. Your sister said she would consider. I was furious when I came to know what my wife had done. I called your sister and apologised. She convinced me to agree to the arrangement. We met the obstetrician who explained further about fertilisation and implantation and how the procedure worked. She told us about the five basic steps of in-vitro fertilisation. She explained how the egg would be collected from my wife and inseminated, fertilised, cultured and then transferred to your sister’s womb. When we left the doctor’s cabin, we walked out as a family. The decision was made. 

My wife was happy, I was happy too, though I did not know whether I had the right to be happy. I looked at your sister, she was smiling. I walked back with your sister to this house and that evening, I stepped in for the first time. I did not know whether it was right for me to be here, but I was glad to be. She made coffee for me and she told me how she really wanted to do this. It was getting darker, but I did not want to leave, she did not want me to leave. That night, for the first time and against the wish of my wife, I stayed back here with her. That night she told me how much she loved me, and she was doing all this because I wanted to be a father. She just wanted one thing in exchange for all that she was doing.” He stopped talking, got up and walked towards his wife. It was not exactly towards his wife, though – he walked towards his daughter who was sleeping peacefully in his wife’s arms. He took the baby from her arms and walked towards me. He held the baby in front of me and I took it in my arms. Despite passing through three different arms, the baby was still sleeping peacefully.

“She has your sister’s eyes” he said and kneeling down next to me he continued, “That night when your sister told me that she loved me immensely, she made a request I could not refuse. She asked me to use her egg instead of my wife’s and I could not say no.”

I looked at his wife, now I knew why she looked so tired and dejected. He had obviously told her this little truth yesterday. All these months she had believed that the baby was hers, it was only yesterday that she had come to know the truth that the baby truly and wholly belonged to my sister. I desperately tried to hold back the tears but when the baby stirred and opened her eyes I could not stop myself from crying when I saw my sister's eyes staring back at me. I looked up at the father of the child and smiled through the tears of joy. He smiled back at me and I could see that he was glad because I understood him. I finally believed he had done everything possible for my sister, everything possible within his limits. I was thankful to him for being there for my sister during the months of her pregnancy even though his wife did not want him to be with her. 

I understood him. I finally believed it was possible for him to love both the women equally.

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